Shortly below 441 is Pot Leaf Shoals, a long rapid that was
a great park and play spot until all roads leading to it were gated. In theory
one could put-in at 441, float down to Pot Leaf Shoals, then paddle back
upstream. Depending on the flows, Pot Leaf is class III-IV. Continuing
downstream, the river de-evolves into swamps.
The first swamp is less than half a mile long and is early warning for
what is to come. The river recombines into a single channel and you feel
relieved but not for long. The 2nd swamp is 2-3 miles long, depending on the
level and how lost you become. The river splits and recombines with abandon,
creating a maze that has befuddled many a crew. Channels disappear into massive
root strainers, forcing one to get out onto "islands" and scout for
the nearest navigable channel. See below for some of the accounts of past
expeditions. To navigate the swamps the
following advice is offered: go when vegetation is minimal (winter or early
spring), go when the level is >1500 cfs at Bostwick, bring a GPS and a
healthy sense of adventure. The 2nd swamp ends, with the river recombining into
a single channel, right at Trimble Bridge Road.
Continuing on to section 6, or putting in at Trimble Bridge,
the river does flow quickly but with no shoals or swamps. Do be aware of strainers. This section is
abundant with wildlife and is bordered on river left by forest land and on
river right by a conservation easement.
“In the May issue of The Eddy Line I offered a scouting
report on the above river suggesting that there might be an interesting run
from Hwy 441 to Lake Oconee. I had been scouting the river for canoe/camping suitability,
and had approached every bridge crossing I could find, but had to rely heavily
on old data from Sehlinger and Otey. Shortly after this report was published, I
got some feedback from members who had tried this trip in the past and viewed
it as a canoe trip from Hell! Both Doug Massey and Jeff Engel describe a river
that becomes a swamp before reconstituting as a river just above Lake Oconee.
Two thoughts come to mind: There is nothing new under the
sun, and those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. I can only hope
nobody took my advice! I have researched my Eddy Line archives, and discovered
three reports of ill fated trips on the Apalachee. Jim Patsios reported a
terrible experience from a trip on 11-19-1989, and Jay Palmer did likewise for a
trip on 6-25- 1989. Both trips ended in the dark, long beyond their anticipated
finish times. Dan Roper reported a similar cautionary tale in October, 1993.
So, by all accounts the rapids below 441 are a fun activity,
but below that, only masochists need apply. Dan questioned whether S&O had really
paddled that section, and Jay advised that S&O’s writing “merits the same
degree of scrutiny as a contract from a used car dealer.” Be forewarned yourself.
Within our club there is a lot of collective paddling experience, but
distribution of that knowledge is a problem. There is no Eddy Line archive as
such, but maybe there could and should be — the old issues contain a wealth of
paddling and scouting reports.
By Dick Hurd
From The Eddy Line July 2003”
Some notes to add to the GCA Eddy Line account: Looking at
historical flows for the Nov 1989 and 1993 trips, levels were at 500 cfs or
lower. There is no flow data on the USGS site for the third trip (6/25/89).
In January 2016 , the Apalachee rose to 1500 cfs and was
paddled from Hwy 86 to Lake Oconee (https://youtu.be/ua5DqYBnlLA). Both swamps
were readily navigated, following a channel until it was blocked, getting out and transitioning to the closest
channel with water. The lack of vegetation helped to scout and navigate the
From Will Van de Berg about Pot Leaf Shoals: The gauge you
are looking for is the Apalachee near Bostwick gauge and between 200-400 cfs
for optimal play. Can definitely play it at both lower (absolute minimum is
around 100 cfs) and higher levels, I have played there at around 3000 cfs and
beyond, but it gets way more intense and is a huge, kind of flood stage feeling
to it. The line to the right of the island opens up then and it has a GNARLY
hole on river right that will keep you in it for a long while (I found this out
myself one day) as well as some entrapment potential on the river left of it--
stay center for best results. At high flows, the wave mid rapid goes from being
a small wave to a nice hole to, at really high flows, a great 6-7' surf wave.
At higher flows, the blasting hole gets pretty unfun as the current shoves you
into the rock on river left, making it more difficult to play in and at really
high flows, this feature completely disappears. At between 200-400 cfs, the
park and play spot is a blast, with surfing waves, a great blasting hole, a
deep eddy line for flatwater moves, several splat spots, and other features
that make it worthwhile to hit when in Athens. Not a destination boating
location, but a great training spot for Athens area boaters.
I have been paddling and researching the Appalachee for the last few years. I would like to restructure the 3 reaches currently listed in the AW database with 4 sections. These would be labeled 2-5 and would go from Treadwell Bridge Road (just above Hwy 78) to Hwy 278 at Lake Oconee. This would encompass 36 miles. The restructure will enable updates to be made concerning access, rapids, dams and the infamous swamp. Sections 0, 1 would be reserved for the upstream reaches I have not paddled yet. The restructuring would be done so as to preserve existing information (comments, etc) for the 3 sections already in place. If you have comments, suggestions, please let me know. Thanks!
I paddled this in a canoe with a friend some 30 years ago so I can't speak to the Hwy441 access as of 2013. What I can tell you is despite the terrain map look or the appearance of water on satellite, you CANNOT paddle from 441 to Lake Oconee. About 4-5 miles below shoals, water becomes swampy and it is that way for a couple miles...map shows a Timber Bridge Rd (dirt) and that is last thing that resembles a road for access. Go past the old iron bridge frame (visible in satellite image) and you are likely to be walking in a swamp with three feet of mud rather than paddling..
I just went out to the shoals last weekend. The gate is still up on Old Madison Hwy, but I didn't see any no trespassing signs for the road there. It is clear the logging companies don't want you to trespass in the forests, but I think that is more to keep hunters out. The bridge access at 441 is still accessible from any side. The Madison county side has a concrete pad with a dirt road that leads under the bridge. I made it down with a 2wd truck, and there was a sedan already down there that made it out with no trouble. It looks like the best bet is to put in at the bridge and take out at the beach area below the shoals. You can park a car on Old Madison above the gate. Just be ready for a 1/4-1/2 mile hike uphill on a gravel road. I will post some pictures of the shoals. The water was low when I went, but it looks like it could be fun.
The forum is a brighter place thanks to your posts. Thakns!
Went this past weekend. Put in at Price Mill Road and paddled to 441 bridge. Bit of a long drag down a big hill at Price Mill, but wasnt bad. Water flowed well first 2-3 miles but then slowed down considerably. Flowing about 61 cfs I believe. Had to pick up and drag about 5 times.
Took out at 441. Washouts on access were kinda rough, but a 2wd truck made it down. Would not want to attempt this aftter a rain though. We did not paddle down any farther than 441, but in my canoe guide it talks about a take out 1 mile past 441.
Local sources tell me that there is a road that leads to the river there (Old Madison Hwy??), but a timber company has gated the road about 1/4 mile from river. To my knowledge the road is still public and it will be a long drag, but free to use.
I dont know how they got approval to gate a public road?
Kevin: I don't think they got approval; they just did it and it hasn't been challenged yet. Pot Leaf shoals was a classic park and play spot.
Went looking for access today and found that most all roads leading anywhere near the playspot are gated and locked. Might be accessable from bridge on 441 but otherwise no other roads open to public.
AW received a report today 12/8/04 that the access to this section has been closed.
"I found on your web site a cool play spot on the Appalachee River that is close enough to get in my boat and get wet without driving far. Well, I went there today and a person has bought all the land from the bridge on 441/129 all the way down and has posted several gates with the Classic "NO Trespassing" signs. I talked with locals and he does not live there, but to be safe in the backwoods of Georgia I would rather not take my chance with the law. I thought I would try further upstream, but there would be no way to hike my boat out without stepping on this guys property due to the fact that he bought both sides of the river."
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Pot Leaf Shoals
Surfing Wave (wave train)
Blasting Hole (Small Drop)
Blast in Pot Leaf Shoal's Playhole
Backblast in Pot Leaf Shoals Playhole
Surfing upper wave
Blasting bottom hole at Pot Leaf Shoals
Blasting bottom hole on Pot Leaf Shoals
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